New to Zwift, try to understand, no way my race speed was 63km/hr

Hi all, quick intro to me. I am not a cyclist except I did a long tour 35 years ago. Have had road bikes since but too wimpy to ride much, main sport is squash and ironically I hate exercising but I’m pretty fit from squash.
I bought a smart trainer with covid lockdown and needed the competitive aspect to motivate me to exercise :wink: !
My question is I finished the ZHQ Futureworks Critcity antisandbagging race level D, a 20 km race in 18:54, but that translates to 63 km/hr, NO WAY lol, my stats show max speed was 53 km/hr. How do I interpret the data? Thanks for any insight!
Bill (aka Dead NIck)

@Dead_Nick: I see in your profile that you did a Crit City race yesterday, and that your time was 18:55, so I’m guessing this is the race to which you are referring. According to Zwift, this race was 6 laps of a 1.9km course, which is 11.4 km, not 20km. This, of course, changes your average speed by quite a bit from the 63km/h. Where did you get the 20km distance?

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Ohh, I must have been looking at the level A race length? I feel stupid, lol
makes more sense now.
But I do have another question. My natural comfortable cadence is probably between 80-85 but I noticed that if I ride a larger gear and drop my cadence to between 60-70 depending on gradient I do much better in race and can maintain a higher wattage (basically improved my race time by about 2 min). Is this me fudging/cheating the system or is that low cadence more suited to me? My difficulty setting is at 75% and my weight is 69 kilos.

Is different for everyone and I would recommend to ride your comfortable cadence. 60-70 is really low, your knees will not like it when riding with high power for longer time.

Hi @Dead_Nick welcome to Zwift forums!

I just want to say this discussion is why our forum regulars like @Nigel_Tufnel and @Milan_Rost make this community welcoming and valuable for new Zwifters. Keep up the good work, guys!


It will not cheat the system. At all. Not one bit. Do it if you want. It has no effect on the power your meter is measuring. (I mean, I think there might be an edge case if you’re on a power meter and you’re below the minimum cadence the inbuilt cadence sensor can detect. That has to be under something like 20 rpm. I’m not sure if humans can even pedal comfortably at 20 rpm.)

Separately from your measured power, as people become better cyclists (both virtual and on the road/MTB cycling), their cadence tends to increase, not decrease. 60-70 is pretty low. I would generally recommend you work on slowly adapting to a higher cadence, but it is your choice.

I’m not 100% sure that low cadence will necessarily affect your knees, but it is the conventional wisdom. You are pushing a greater amount of force in each pedal stroke. I think the conventional wisdom is that higher cadence is more efficient, i.e. you generate more power for the same cost to your metabolism.

Thank you guys for the responses. From cycling on the road as opposed to zwift, I agree with you higher cadence at a comfortable gear feels more efficient and intuitive. So, I was surprised that when I was experimenting during a race and used higher gear and lower cadence, it "felt’ like I was doing less work or at least my heart rate was staying the same but I was going faster and pushing more watts with the lower cadence. My gut tells me it’s either my difficulty setting playing a role ( I know wattage should not be affected) making the work feel easier.

The Trainer Difficulty setting only comes into play on gradients, and if you’re referring to Crit City then that’s pretty flat.

It’s normal to have a higher heart rate at higher cadence.

And I’ll just re-affirm what they said before - trainer difficulty only affects your gearing. Ultimately the power is the only thing that you can actually influence in order to go faster/slower.
Apart from your height/weight, which you can control (the latter), albeit very slowly. And the choice of bike/wheels.